The Courts and Royal Commissions
If you have ever received a summons to give evidence in a criminal trial, or to be a member of a jury, you may have noticed that it tells you that your appearance is commanded by "Her Majesty The Queen". Criminal cases are referred to as Regina v Smith
—Latin words for Queen and versus
meaning "against" the accused. What our American friends call "the prosecutor" or "district attorney" we call "the Crown Attorney", the person who represents the state in criminal trials. Now of course The Queen is not personally involved in any way in these proceedings. But the justice system operates in her name to underline that Canada operates under the rule of law and not by the whim of a ruler or by a system of bribes as in many non-democratic countries. Judges are loyal to The Queen—our laws made by Parliament in her name—and not to a politician who might want a decision to go a certain way, or to have a pesky opponent locked up, or worse. In this way, too, while Canadians have to obey laws, they do not have to support them—and are free to speak out to urge Parliament to change their provisions. From time to time, the government will ask a Judge or group of Judges to form a "Royal Commission", usually to inquire in a non-partisan way into matters of controversy. Some recent Royal Commissions have included inquiries into Aboriginal Peoples (1991-1996), New Reproductive Technologies (1993-1994) and the Future of Health Care in Canada (2002-2004).
Crown Lands and the King's Highways
If you go camping for a weekend, or enjoy a picnic away from the busy city, you may well find that a provincial campsite or federal park is posted "Crown Lands—no shooting or hunting". The term does not mean that The Queen personally owns or administers the park, but that her government—elected by us, provincial or federal, owns and controls them. Across all of Canada, great tracts of forest and tundra are Crown Lands. Certain bridges are also controlled by the federal government, and so are patrolled by the RCMP rather than a provincial or local police force. In the same way, some provinces such as Ontario have retained the tradition of designating highways as the King’s Highway (relating to the monarch when the route was first built) to emphasize that all have access to it—recalling an earlier time in our history when most roads were privately owned, and their owners, not the government, kept toll fees for their personal enrichment.
Some main routes are also named to honour our monarchs—thus Ontario’s Queen Elizabeth Way, which runs from Toronto to Niagara, and honours the late Queen Mother from her 1939 tour with the King; Alberta’s Queen Elizabeth II Highway between Edmonton and Calgary, renamed by the provincial government when our present Queen returned home to celebrate the centenary of Alberta in Confederation in 2005; and Nova Scotia 's Highway 206, leading to the PEI Ferry, named Jubilee Highway in 2012.